Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it can still be damaged. When tooth enamel is worn down, cavities and eventually tooth decay can develop. Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and fights cavities, but the foods we eat are a constant threat. The main culprit is acid, which can come directly from certain foods or be formed by sugars that are left behind on the teeth.
The trouble with acid in the mouth is that many foods that are highly acidic are foods that are good for you, so avoiding an acidic diet is not recommended. Many vegetables, fruits and fruit juices contain acid, especially citrus fruits. Some of our favorite beverages are also acidic, including wine, coffee and tea.
Nature fights acid in the mouth with saliva and saliva washes away acids and food particles. Increasing saliva production after meals by chewing sugarless gum can help to get rid of extra acid on the teeth. Following meals with water has the same positive effect. A dry mouth is more likely to leave acid behind to damage the teeth, but because many beverages are acidic, water is the best thing to drink for acid removal. Tonic water, sports drinks, soda and most fruit juices contain high amounts of acid.
Another way in which diet affects the acid in our mouths is through acid reflux or stomach upset. Acid reflux and vomiting bring acid into the mouth and onto the teeth. People who have frequent problems with acid reflux or gastric problems may not be thinking about their teeth, but these problems actually increase the risk of enamel erosion and cavities.
Even though eliminating healthy acidic foods from your diet is not a recommended method of protecting your teeth, there are some healthy foods that are low in acid. Peanut butter, cheese, natural yogurt and bananas are all low in acid, as are wheat, rye and white bread. When you are looking for a snack, you could try substituting some of these foods for others that are higher in acid.
Using fluoride toothpaste every time you brush strengthens your tooth enamel and protects against acid erosion and cavities. People who are at higher risk of acid erosion due to their diets or to health conditions may be advised by the dentist to use fluoride mouth rinses for extra protection. Brushing and flossing daily gets rid of food particles, and regular dental checkups can catch problems in early stages.